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Version: Universal Studios / Hong Kong Legends R4 DVD release.
Cantonese / English subtitles.
I first saw 'Iron Monkey' on an old, poor-quality VHS release with dodgy English subtitles placed underneath really big and bright Chinese subtitles that took up half of the screen space. You know the type I'm talking about. Even then, my immediate reaction was "AWESOME WOW AWESOME".
The corrupt officials of a Chinese province find themselves the target of Iron Monkey (Rongguang Yu), a sort of Chinese Robin Hood. When Wong Kei Ying (Donnie Yen) and a young Wong Fei Hung (Sze-Man Tsang) arrive in town, Kei Ying is forced to help the corrupt authorities track down Iron Monkey. Naturally, things get complicated when a group of Shaolin rebels arrive in town. Led by Hin Hung (Yee Kwan Yan) these evil Shaolin Monks and Nuns have been paid take out our heroes, leaving Iron Monkey, Kei Ying, Fei Hung, and Miss Orchid (Jean Wang) to kick many an evil-doers arse.
The story in 'Iron Monkey' serves only as a device to allow for more fighting. Things that might usually be kept secret are revealed nearly straight away, just to avoid any major plot twists and allow for more kung-fu time. In fact, in 'Iron Monkey', kung-fu time occurs much more frequently then plot-development time, and whenever a plot-development moment comes along, it usually accompanied by kung-fu time. Awesome.
We all know that Donnie Yen and Rongguang Yu are awesome. They spend a good deal of time putting on some awesome fight scenes. Jean Wang and Sze-Man Tsang (who, in Monkey Magic style, is actually a girl) pull of some really cool action sequences. Granted, most of it is grounded in fantasy, much like 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' and friends, but it still looks really cool, and a few of these fights are easily some of my favourite fight-scenes ever. Also, the technique names rule. I wish I could perform a no-shadow kick or a King Kong palm.
'Iron Monkey' is nearly nothing but martial arts fantasy. Fans of Hong Kong wuxia movies will get a kick out of this, as will action fans in general. Fans of 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon', 'Hero', and 'House of Flying Daggers' should see this to see how wuxia should be done, but they may not like it. Fantastic action movie - 9/10
This is by far one of the top 10 martial art movies of all time.
This movie has beautiful scenery and atmosphere. It transport me back to a place long ago and far away where life is cruel and government officials are corrupt but all is not forsaken for heroes are out there with heart of pure goodness, body of iron armor, and spirit of courage and valor. This movie made me believe in this world where human can train their body and mind to do inhuman feats like leaping onto roof tops and shattering cement blocks two feet thick. It invoked memories of my childhood dream of becoming a martial art master able to kick butt but also the restraint and pathos for helping those less fortunate. Both Dr Yang and Wong Kei-Ying plays a martial art hero that possess these traits. They are well rounded individuals that posses other admirable skills. Dr Yang for example is a highly skilled doctor, a flashy cook, and a musician. I love one of the breath taking scenery in which he was playing this Chinese instrument out in the court yard on a golden autumn day. It's very nostalgic for me for some reason. Orchid, Dr Yang's assistant is wonderful in this movie as well. She brought beauty and depth to this movie. The young Wong Fei-hung character was great as well. These wonderful characters on top of the amazing fight sequences makes this movie transcend martial art movies and rival any movies genre ever produced in terms of sheer entertainment value. I have read review about the bad/simple plot or fake wire-fu in this movie. That's not the point, the mastery of mood and texture in this movie is sheer enjoyment. How much plot can one develop in a 90 minute martial art movie?...or any movie really...it's all about the human conditions some more complex than other often recycled over and over through the years and placed in a different setting and different context. Great movies capture the human imagination and touches a spectrum of human emotions. Great movies also flow smoothly and do not go into a lull. For me this movie did that and more. Hopefully you'll want to watch it again and again like I did.
I have three words for this movie: Yuen Woo Ping.
This movie is action packed with Ping's trademark unique fighting sequences. Whether it's bodies slamming through tables, hopping from roof to rooftop, there's so much action, then story, then more action!!! Donnie Yen's martial arts is impressive and his character is very straight to the point, but very noble. Guang as Dr. Yang is heroic as well and plays his dual role very well. Most of best battles have both men sharing the screen with lightning speed quickness!! Tsang is good as young Wong Fei Hung and the beautiful Jean Wang is visually pleasing to watch as Miss Ho (who can also whoop butt). Master Fox provides funny moments too.
Overall, the main emphasis here is the martial arts. The bad guys are very bad (including one deadly renegade monk) and the action is intense. Besides "shadowless kicks" and "King Kong fists", weapons used vary from staffs & swords to umbrellas, benches, and very sharp tacks (OUCH!) The finale is mind-blowing and is like nothing I've ever seen before.
Hong Kong film director and martial arts expert Yuen Woo-ping is absolutely
outstanding. In "Iron Monkey," one scene I admire most is the poetically
quiet, beautiful interaction of fluid movements in graceful progression: as
Dr. Yang and Miss Orchid close shop (the clinic), a whiff of wind blows the
papers (written prescriptions) up in the air, and Yang (who's actually Iron
Monkey) elevates himself up into the air to catch the flying papers, while
Orchid, with a few agile movements and glides, catches the balance of the
flying papers. It's like a short interlude - a silent romantic song with
punctuated accents - with a slight kick from Miss Orchid, a stool plops into
place upside down as it should be on another neatly ends the piece. I
actually relish this quiet segment much more than the awe-struck extensive
finale scene, which is truly an amazing display of exquisitely choreographed
martial art movements of three masters (two good forces tenaciously team up
against one skillful evil monk) on multiple wooden poles with inferno-like
fire a-dancing below. Fantastic performances from Donnie Yen as Wong
Kei-ying, father of Wong Fei-hung, who's deftly portrayed by a young girl
Tsang Sze-man, and Yu Rongguang as Dr. Yang/Iron Monkey, with Jean Wang as
Miss Orchid, to the upstanding police chief, the devastating evil monk and
Iron Monkey is essentially a film about the legendary Shaolin kung-fu master (also known as drunken master) Wong Fei-hung when he was young. In fact, the alternate title is "Siunin Wong Fei-hung tsi titmalau," literally: Young Wong Fei-hung's iron monkey.
Follow this up with Jet Li's "Once Upon A Time In China 2" ("Wong Fei-hung ji yi: Naam yi dong ji keung" 1992, literally: Wong Fei-hung #2 - young man should be self-sufficiently strong) and the adult Wong Fei-hung portrayal will be better understood: why he's so good at his knowledge and practice of Chinese medicine, why he acted so restrained and coy with Aunt Yee, whom he very much loves but won't express so - all due to the austere teachings from his father as noted in "Iron Monkey." We also learn that he lost his mother at a tender young age - though from Jackie Chan's "The Legend of Drunken Master" (2000 USA, "Jui Kuen 2" 1994, literally: Drunken fist 2), we can see he has quite a wonderful stepmother - smart and wittily portrayed by Anita Mui! See it if you want another excitingly fun, martial arts action-packed drama about the adult Wong Fei-hung.
I really loved this flick. A Kung Fu Robin Hood fights corruption in officialdom whilst providing for the poor and needy. Kung Fu skills go from fancy kicks and hand work, to wok skills, balancing on poles and beating up bullies with an umbrella. Once the visiting doctor realises his mistake in wanting to defeat our hero, a dynamic team up results against the evil foes from Shaolin who misuse their art to the obligatory Kung Fu bad guys (and girls). The characters are quite good, even the little kid didn't irritate me (good skills). This movie has some padding, with the father-son routine. It worked ok, adding some plot and human interest to the movie. Even one of the corrupt officials (Master Fox) moves beyond 1D, though the Shaolin monk is truly the 1D bad guy. Well done Tsui Hark.
Yuen Woo-Ping and Donnie Yen, in yet another collaboration together, have
brought forth one of the greatest kung fu movies in existence. The story
involves a Robin Hood-esque martial artist named the Iron Monkey teaming up
w/ Wong Kei Ying to battle government corruption. The movie itself is a
prequel to the OUATIC series, and in many ways is better than most of the
entries in it. Thematically, this film deals with friendship, greed,
corruption, and family relationships.
However, this is a martial arts movie. The fight scenes are choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping. He was nominated for the Best Choreography award and it's a shame he didn't win. Donnie Yen, Yu Rong Gwong, and the rest of the supporting cast show off a vast display of martial arts. My favourite fight is when Donnie Yen battles the evil monks and the nun. His footwork is simply awesome, one of the best kickers in the business. All leads up to an impressive finale, where Donnie Yen and Yu Rong Gwong battle their foe on the top of a forest of burning poles. It must be seen to believe.
Excellent film. There's a story. There are themes and morals. And there's some of the greatest fights one will witness. A true classic.
Note that this movie's subtitle is "The Young Wong Fei-Hong."
This isn't so much a movie about a Chinese Robin Hood/Zorro figure, or a strict martial arts hero - it's a movie about a young boy and the people who influence who he will become. It's poignant in parts - such as when Fei Hong tries to grab his father's hand and is scolded for it - and hilarious in others - "My kung-fu is pretty good!" exclaims a surprised Fei Hong in one scene.
While much of the movie is focused on the concerns of the adults around him, Fei Hong is also the audience's conduit to the subtle messages of the movie as a whole. It's not all about kick-ass fight scenes - that's just how they keep our attention. The world portrayed in IRON MONKEY admires intellect and wit as much as martial arts ability. Woven into the whole is a lesson in honor, the balance between discipline and recklessness, and the need for affection and love.
Fans of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON will love this movie because of one simple fact - the plot is linear, with short flashback sequences as needed, and despite its intricacy, it's not too involved. CTHD would be like riding in a Rolls-Royce: beautiful to look at, enjoyable to drive; but IRON MONKEY is like a Porche, fast, sleek and dangerous. CTHD may be visually superior as far as cinematography goes - and in a lot of ways, it is - but IRON MONKEY moves along in ways that CTHD does not.
Also look for Tsang Sze Man, who had the potential to be what Haley Joel Osment is here in America. Pity Man didn't do any more martial arts films.
Film fans must see this movie; kung fu fans probably should see this movie. But if subtitles scare you (the dubbed version isn't quite as good) and guys in robes and braids are "gay," keep away. Go rent DUMB AND DUMBER or something.
Donnie Yen and Yuen-woo ping team up again to bring us one of the best kung fu movies ever. The fight choreography is perfect and the fighting style includes the animal styles such as the crane and the snake. Donnie Yen plays Wong-kai-ying, the father of Wong-fei-hong(who is curiously played by a girl!!), and they have to face in their adventure villains such as the witch, who has powerful hand grip and great double sword of lo-han style of fighting, and the governor who possesses his famous king-kong palm and his flying sleeves. But Wong-kai-ying also has a powerful move :it is the no-shadow kick (style that we can see in the once upon a time in china series of movies). The end fight is the one of the three best I have ever seen!! A must see. 10/10
For all you people who've only seen the matrix, CTHD, and think fight club features the best fighting ever, you ain't seen nothing yet. Iron Monkey features Hong Kong movie making at one of its best. For those of you who couldn't find a plot, I don't know what kind of movie you saw or how well you pay attention to a movie but I found the plot to be about a good doctor who helps the poor, and the oppressive govt official that's after him. And it gets complicated by Donnie Yen's character. And sorry, for those of you who don't know, there's no literal Monkey made out of Iron in this movie just like there are no crouching tigers or hidden dragons in that movie. But Iron Monkey is a martial arts classic.
After watching films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Shaolin
Soccer and immensely falling for them, I had some hesitancy with this
film. With Tarantino's name attached to the previews, I had this
growing concern that Hollywood had gripped this film a bit too hard,
thus squeezing out any remaining value or originality. I had heard of
the stories of Harvey "Scissorhands" and his ability to really do a
number on these Asian films that find their way into our cinemas. I
have heard that if you ever really want to fully enjoy one of these
films, do not touch those with the name Miramax stamped anywhere. With
this in mind, I believe you can see where the hesitancy was coming
from, but I need to be honest, this wasn't a horrible film. Using a
pre-Wachowski brothers technique of wires instead of "bullet-time"
effects, Iron Monkey quickly transformed from your average Shaolin film
(if there is such a thing), to a very humorous, creative, and original
For some strange reason this film caught my eye and never let go. The strong blend between action and comedy rivals that of most modern Hollywood big-budget features. The impeccable timing of the actors, the perfection of each of the dance-like fights, and its ability to transcend from one genre to another is what really gave this film a big boost in my eyes. While I was expecting a notorious film full of girth and power, I was not in any way expecting this prize-winning, genre-jumping, symposium of pleasure. Everything from the balloonish characters to the simple, yet structured, story pushed this film beyond others of similar nature. I cannot express how impressed that I was with Iron Monkey and how it helped bring the martial arts film back into American homes.
Another element that I enjoyed immensely in this film was the mystic forces behind the characters. The different Shaolin techniques impressed me and helped give the characters a masked depth to them. Being relatively new to this genre, I am constantly impressed by the power, creativity, and ingenuity of the basic moves that Shaolin implies while in battle. In this film, it was the "Buddha Palm" that made me utter the infamous Keanu line, "Whoa". While this film wasn't perfection in a nutshell, it was enjoyable to go back to some of these "classics" and see where our now-modern films are borrowing their style. It is good to see the strength and ability of someone fresh instead of Hollywood Jackie Chan in these roles. Asian cinema is one of the most impressive genres in film, and continually it proves that it can break old molds and stereotypes by revamping them while still paying homage to the originals. It is a genre, unlike Hollywood, that actually pays honest respect to the proceeding films that gave them this opportunity, and while Iron Monkey isn't Criterion-esquire, it does provide several hours of countless fun and mind-challenging action.
Finally, you cannot talk about a film like this without mentioning the action. I grew up in a house that prided itself on the popularity of the action film, and while my tastes have changed considerably over the years, it is always a pleasure to revisit in my mind those childhood days. Now, when I go back to visit my family, I take films like Iron Monkey and Shaolin Soccer to bring a new style of action into the home. It continues to be an instant hit. This film was no different. From the quick hand and leg combat, to the creative use of nearly every random inanimate object around, to the different elements of nature that are brought in to bring more thrill to the table, this film had everything and kept the enjoyment level high. That says a lot for a little Asian film that found itself corrupted by America.
Overall, I was very impressed with this film. With my growing infatuation with this genre of film, I cannot wait to get my hands on more. While I wish that Miramax would not try to take these films to the butcher's block, they still provide several hours of enjoyment and plenty of action. In intensity and insanity of the actors help create a world where you believe in the impossible kung-fu move and allow even more punches to follow. This was a great film that should be enjoyed with subtitles (never dubbing) and without the Tarantino introduction. Check it out, I do not think it will bring disappointment.
Grade: **** out of *****
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